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female empowerment

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Paris show continues Dior's message of female empowerment

<center> All of the Dior models wore leather berets, as did Rihanna in the audience.</center>

Proof that the hoodie is our era’s most zeitgeisty clothing item came at the Dior show in Paris, where the house’s historic Bar jacket &ndash; that post-war symbol of hourglass femininity &ndash; came with a hood.

Friday’s show centred on one of the most gender-loaded colours &ndash; blue &ndash; and was opened by Ruth Bell, a short-haired model, in a leather beret and a roomy woollen navy-blue hooded jacket with matching culottes. A handbag was slung across her body, its thick, studded strap giving the impression she could just as easily have been carrying a sword.

This was the second ready-to-wear collection by Dior’s first female artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. The Italian designer clearly feels duty-bound to say something impactful about the female experience at a house that has, for the past 70 years, explored femininity from the perspective of male designers; from Christian Dior himself to Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Raf Simons.

Clothes mixed workwear tropes with dreamy fluidity. Often it was business at the top, fairytale romance on the bottom &ndash; an army-style jacket paired with a tulle skirt &ndash; or else practicality and romance met in one garment, such as the flowing pleated skirts and dresses fashioned from nylon. There were blue overalls that looked practical, even if in reality they would be too posh to paint in, and fantastical chiffon gowns displaying boyish boxer shorts trimmed with a very 90s tickertape Dior logo underneath.

All of the models wore leather berets, as did Rihanna in the audience. The effect was somewhere between Bonnie and Clyde and Che Guevara. It confirms berets as a major trend &ndash; and one which may finally free us from our beanies, come autumn.

The Bar jacket was introduced by Dior in 1947, as part of the curvy silhouette that became known as the New Look. There were three versions of that jacket on Friday’s catwalk with hoods, and there were hoods on capes and on monastic dresses. Notes distributed at the show said these had been inspired by “the tunics of pastors” and by Dior’s 1949 autumn/winter couture collection, but the starting point could just have easily been contemporary &ndash; the hoodie being the off-duty look of the Netflix-and-chill generation as well as the uniform of tech billionaires and the layering piece of choice at cutting edge fashion label Vetements.

Before joining Dior, Chiuri was one of two creative directors at Valentino, where she created the wildly popular Rock Stud sandals that helped drive the Italian brand’s recent commercial success.

The talking-point piece from her first collection, which was presented in September, was the antithesis of the Dior nipped-waist silhouette: a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “We Should All be Feminists”, after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk, a line which had also been sampled on Beyonce’s song Flawless. Rihanna made the T-shirt even more famous when she wore it on the women’s march.

This season there were no T-shirt slogans but Chiuri’s message of female empowerment was just as clearly spelled out.

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